I love to read about other people who have the enterpreneurial spirit. Often the enthusiasm, the tenacity, and the willingness to risk are contageous. How funny when i look over my life and think that the first 50 years were those of low risk, show me the guaranteed routine of average life. But i am thankful for the opportunity to step into the place of innovative risk, to develop something that fulfills my passionate creativity, and is beginning to meet the financial needs of life. I love this quote:
“It’s fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.”
– Bill Gates
Success is so good, and rightfully needful to celebrate the wonderful times. But it is in those deep valleys of failure that we grow the most. Steve and I have begun to look at what seems like failures for the lesson on what to take away. There is always a lesson, and there is always something to build on.
One such time was last year. We had heard the stories of other artists talking about the amazing and wonderful festival we had to do. Everyone who was juried into the Sauerkraut Festival in Waynesville Ohio spoke of the huge volume of attendees, and the very profitable time they had.
We spend almost a month bulking up on supply of soap, scrubs, and i dyed a ton of silk, worked my fingers to the bone to have wire crochet ready too. And we arrived. It was a huge event. There were over 400 vendors, and the street was filling with a buzz the night before.
What we did not realize was that people walked the street just like you drive on it…. right of the yellow center line heads west, left of the center line heads east… no deviation.
We were always used to setting out booth up for approach from any direction. What we quickly realized was that my silk, which was what was visible as people walked the street, was what drew them in.. they missed our fully stocked soap rack that was at the center of the back wall of the tent, where we always put it. Soap missed, we began to think about reorganizing the tent. But decided to walk the fest to see who our competition was, and how they displayed soap. In total there were 8 soap vendors, and our booth was directly in front of an existing brick and mortar store that sells…. SOAP!!!!
While our competition sold different styles, and types of soap, the festival could not actually bear 8 of the same category… and we reduced our profitability by not positioning our rack in the best visibility. We still made profit… and that worked. We actually did sell out of my silk (which was quite the amazing surprise), and sold a ton of sugar and salt scrubs.
While we did not sell out, and we realized that our expectations were higher than they should be, we learned something about marketing, about positioning our product for maximum exposure. And we learned that large crowds do not dictate large buyers.
Did you know that studies have been done on the sales of handmade items, and of fine art. And the rule of thumb of buyers in that 5% of the crowd will buy handcrafted items, but only 1-2% will buy art. Our expectations were to believe this factoid, and based on a half million people we assumed that at least 1-2% of the crowd would buy. The truth is they were buying food, and specific things…. reducing the actual percentage of the crowd that buy to less than 1/2 of 1%.
It was in our mind a failure of expectations, a failure to lay out our tend for max exposure, and a failure to capture in the buying market. But the take away a new set of eyes that look and anticipate the pattern of the crowd, and ask lots of questions.
The greatest lesson learned from this “fail” was that we will never allow our hearts to be dragged in a direction of predicting, anticipating, and planning for how well we will do. Instead we now remind each other that we have done our part, delivered the handcrafted goodness, packaged, displayed and presented it as best we can…. and we will believe that our products sell themselves. and they do.
And we will trust God for the sales. We have found that it is just more fun to not focus on hard sales, but instead be there, chat as needed, and let the products sell themselves. Good lessons learned from a fail! Thankful to be learning.